Artela: Providing Scalability and Extensibility with “EVM++”


Co-Authors: Evan Hsu​, Investment Associate; Philipp Hamer, Investment Analyst at Aves Lair

Intro to Artela

Artela is an extensible Layer-1 blockchain network built for developers to create modular, feature-rich, scalable, and customizable applications in an EVM-compatible environment.  Artela promotes a solution called “EVM++”,  where the “++” represents Artela will break through limitations of the EVM from both scalability and extensibility perspectives, providing developers with more chain native possibilities.

The EVM has become the standard framework for developing decentralized applications (dApps) and is adopted widely across various smart contract chains, commonly known as EVM-compatible chains. However, virtual machines like the EVM are optimized for specific use cases, which can limit developers’ flexibility in application design. For instance, the EVM prioritizes security and accessibility, aiming for network stability. Extending the functionality of the EVM requires approval through the Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) process, managed by the Ethereum Foundation. This process, which can be time-consuming, slows the rate of innovation by limiting developers’ ability to freely modify or create certain components at the user level.

Developers seeking to bypass these restrictions have resorted to creating application-specific chains (app-chains) to expand functionalities. While this approach allows for greater customization, developers not only face higher development and operational costs but also lose on-chain composability. While other alternatives such as MoveVM and FuelVM aim to offer superior virtual machines (VMs) over EVM, transitioning to these platforms could entail switching costs for developers accustomed to the EVM environment. Additionally, achieving the same level of ecosystem maturity as the EVM could take considerable time due to losing composability with existing developer tools and EVM-based applications that currently amass a majority of locked liquidity.

Artela aims to extend EVM functionality by addressing its current limitations in customizability without requiring dApps to compromise or operate on fragmented appchains. Introducing ‘Aspect programming,’ Artela enables developers to create native extensions, or ‘Aspects,’ executing customized code within a WebAssembly (WASM) runtime environment. By leveraging WASM for EVM extensibility, developers can build practical applications without sacrificing performance and the benefits of being on EVM. 

Furthermore, Artela addresses performance challenges inherent to the EVM by implementing parallel execution, facilitating simultaneous processing of multiple transactions. This significantly enhances throughput and scalability, particularly during periods of peak usage. Developers benefit from this feature as it optimizes resource utilization and improves transaction speeds. Additionally, Artela mitigates network congestion with Elastic Block Space, enabling large-scale dApps to subscribe to independent block spaces, thereby alleviating congestion impact while ensuring scalability without requiring an appchain. 

Now that we’ve outlined the challenges Artela is addressing through its technical design choices, the article will delve deeper into these aspects.

Artela Implements Native Extensions Using EVM+WASM Solution

What is an Extension?

An extension is a software module that extends or enhances the functionalities of applications. In the context of operating systems, general operating systems distinguish between kernel mode and user mode, with user applications typically running in user mode, utilizing functionalities provided by the kernel mode programs. However, the Mac OS X allows application developers to autonomously deploy programs into the kernel mode to expand kernel functionalities, without the need for the MacOS X core team to encapsulate functionalities based on the general needs of developers. The core mechanisms provided by Mac OS X are ‘Kernel Extensions’ and ‘System Extensions.’ These two types of extensions allow developers to develop kernel extensions under certain safety modes, using higher-privilege functionalities to develop features that pure user-mode applications cannot achieve.

App-Specific Functionality Through the Lens of Uniswap v4 Hooks

Similar to how Mac OS X extends application functionality through kernel extensions, Uniswap v4 introduces hook functionality, which extends the functionality of the Uniswap application. Hooks provides developers with the capability to add customized features at specific stages within trading pools. This functionality significantly enhances operational flexibility and freedom, empowering developers to execute actions such as setting on-chain limit orders before trades commence, extracting transaction fees for swap transactions and liquidity withdrawals, and enabling LP holders to earn additional MEV income. The introduction of hook functionality expands the realm of possibilities within trading pools, facilitating the creation of tailored extensions to meet diverse user needs.

Despite the potential of Uniswap v4’s features, it has not yet been fully operationalized. While hooks enable customized functionality, the rate of innovation is still restricted by the constraints of the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). Returning to the ‘kernel’ and ‘user’ mode example, to further augment its capabilities, developers must await upgrades through the Ethereum Improvement Proposal process, which the Ethereum Foundation oversees. 

Artela’s Native Extensions

Inspired by the Mac OS X system architecture, the Artela team proposed that besides supporting ‘smart contracts’ on the blockchain protocol, Aspects, which are akin to kernel extensions, are native extensions on the Artela blockchain. The following is how an Aspect can extend functionality to the EVM:  

  1. It has underlying base layer API access permissions and is composable with smart contracts and other Aspects.
  2. Its code is executed using WASM, creating an execution environment that is orders of magnitude more efficient than that of EVM.
  3. Its execution is securely isolated, not affecting the security and stability of the blockchain.
  4. In terms of governance, it is not maintained by the core team but by the application team for deployment and maintenance.

By utilizing Aspects, application developers can customize the underlying functionalities they need for their applications without waiting for the core team to encapsulate them. Given its composability, application developers can utilize pre-built Aspects to build a feature-rich application on Artela. The Artela team summarizes this paradigm as the Native Extension paradigm.

Moreover, as Aspects can access system-level APIs at the base layer, it can natively integrate fundamental features like automation functionality without relying on a third party such as Chainlink. This chain-native extensibility reduces trust and cost tradeoffs associated with introducing third-party service providers to the network. When using a third-party service like an automation keeper network to execute on-chain tasks, it introduces additional costs for users and reduces trust because of reliance on an external party. Aspects can provide the functionality of automation natively, where WASM can be triggered during a transaction or block execution, while the Aspect can be programmed to execute predetermined tasks at a specific block height. By extending this functionality directly to the base layer, value capture flows directly through the blockchain as there are more requests for gas.  

The automation functionality is just one example of the practical applications of Artela’s Aspect programming. Its EVM+WASM solution ultimately enhances dApp functionality through WASM while retaining composability with EVM. 

Artela empowers developers with high customization capabilities for both the application layer of dApps and the underlying performance of the blockchain. 

Customization of Functionality:

Smart Contract + Native Extension = Feature-rich dApp

In Artela, application logic can be divided into two parts (core business and enhanced features):

  1. Smart contracts are primarily responsible for handling the core business logic of a dApp, such as transaction, lending, or voting logic.
  2. Aspect handles features that do not directly affect the core business logic but can enhance other application attributes (additional features). Aspect complements smart contracts rather than replaces them. 

This mechanism means that Artela has two execution layers running in sync. The EVM acts like a CPU, processing the core contract logic, while Aspects running on the WASM virtual machine are like a GPU, handling enhanced functionalities without touching the state of the smart contracts. Both the EVM and Aspects run on the same nodes and consensus mechanism, so there are no additional trust assumptions, sharing the same level of security.

Returning to our initial introduction of Uniswap V4, similar to the Hook mechanism in Uniswap V4, Artela’s Aspects allow for activation at multiple lifecycle points of block and transaction processing. Hooks in Artela are called Join Points, and the executing code of a Hook is named Aspect, dynamically inserting functionalities at various Join Points.

Optimizing dApp Capabilities Through WASM Runtime

Artela utilizes a tailored WASM runtime specifically built for executing Aspects. It offers several practical advantages for enhancing application capabilities. Firstly, it enables efficient execution of complex logic and computations due to its performance optimizations and low-level code representation. Through WASM, Aspects allows developers to build applications without compromising performance, which is essential for ensuring the scalability and responsiveness of decentralized applications. Additionally, WASM’s support for multiple programming languages and its modular design provide developers with flexibility and ease of integration with existing software ecosystems. Given the development and support from technology giants such as Google, Mozilla, and Apple, WASM has seen widespread adoption and popularity, resulting in a rich ecosystem of developer tools and resources.

Parallel Execution: Increasing Network Scalability

Artela employs parallel execution as a scalability solution to reduce network latency and enhance throughput. Artela analyzes transactions to identify which can be processed simultaneously without interfering with each other. By organizing these compatible transactions into groups, Artela can execute multiple sets simultaneously, significantly increasing the volume and number of transactions that can be handled in a given period. This approach differs from Ethereum’s sequential execution, where every transaction is processed one after the other, which can lead to bottlenecks, especially during high-traffic periods.

Parallel Execution eliminates the need for transactions to wait extended times for confirmation or pay excessive fees to prioritize transactions. Shorter confirmation times contribute to quicker transaction finality and benefit latency-sensitive applications, such as games or auctions. For instance, applications like League of Legends, a popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, demand low latency to accurately reflect players’ sub-second inputs. Similarly, high transaction throughput is essential for enterprise-level platforms, enabling major financial networks such as Visa and Mastercard to process thousands of transactions per second. 

Ethereum incorporating parallel processing in the near term seems unlikely as it focuses on a rollup-centric strategy. However, the potential for parallel processing within the EVM ecosystem exists, with projects like Monad and Eclipse exploring parallel processing. Similarly, Sei V2 is looking to combine parallel execution capabilities with EVM compatibility, allowing Ethereum contracts to be seamlessly redeployed on Sei without modifications. This approach mirrors Artela’s strategy of enhancing scalability while ensuring backward compatibility with the EVM.

Artela’s integration of parallel processing and Aspects represents a strategic enhancement to its infrastructure. This addresses the current requirements for scalability and efficiency while offering developers a flexible framework. This framework enables the creation of decentralized applications that can meet the demands of various use cases, such as dynamic gaming environments and high-volume financial services.

Scalability with Elastic Block Space

When a protocol grows in the Artela network, it can subscribe to Elastic Block Space to handle the growth of protocol users and throughput. Elastic Block Space offers independent block space for dApps with high transaction throughput requirements, allowing them to scale with their growth. In essence, blockspace determines the volume of data a blockchain can store in each block, directly impacting transaction throughput. When dApps experience a surge in transaction demand, subscribing to elastic block space becomes helpful to efficiently handle the increased load without impacting the underlying blockchain.

An example to understand the importance of blockspace, and its impact on transaction costs would be the launch of Yuga Labs’ Otherside NFTs, leading to a sharp increase in gas prices (up to 500 gwei). The total gas spent on Ethereum transactions during that event was US$225 million. The demand for blockspace significantly outstripped the available supply. This means that users accessing other applications on Ethereum also had to face equally high gas fees, despite only one application congesting the network. 

It is possible to increase the transaction per block on Ethereum but we already know that upgrading the EVM requires a lengthy EIP process and development time. In addition, the Ethereum network deliberately ensures that the hardware requirements for computing remain accessible to most participants. Thus, if the data per block increases, the storage and compute requirements for validators would also increase, creating higher entry barriers and potentially compromising Ethereum’s decentralized ethos.

Solana addresses this challenge with a distinctive solution—implementing “local” fee markets. During activities like a surge in swap transactions or an NFT drop, transactions related to the specific activity face spiked fees. For instance, in an NFT drop, the NFT issuer will quickly consume the per-account computing unit (CU) limit. Further transactions must bid up priority fees to be within that account’s limited space. This approach prevents any single activity from monopolizing scarce blockspace, limiting temporal fee spikes, and reducing network-wide congestion. 

Artela enhances the concept of localized fee markets, as seen in Solana, by enabling dApps to secure additional block space to anticipate transaction demand, thus preventing network-wide fee surges and congestion. This approach not only mitigates the adverse impacts of sudden demand spikes but also ensures stable transaction costs and network efficiency. By providing a mechanism for dApps to scale their block space in response to forecasted demand, Artela’s Elastic Block Space enables protocols to handle the high-speed growth of protocol users and throughput. Looking ahead, it’s possible to see an Aspect that facilitates a blockspace marketplace, where dApp teams can buy and sell block space. This marketplace could offer packages that are more cost-efficient or convenient for dApps, potentially including options for discounted rates when purchasing block space in advance, similar to energy markets.

Use Cases

The cryptocurrency market is at a breakthrough, with user-driven demands for on-chain products’ functionalities constantly increasing. The limitations of on-chain programmability are becoming more significant, and sectors such as security DeFi, crypto AI, and fully on-chain games highlight the demand for programming extensibility. Artela possesses unique advantages and innovative potential in AI, fully on-chain games, DeFi security, and other areas. It has the potential to overcome challenges that are difficult for pure EVM blockchains to achieve.

Exploit Prevention Through Aspects

One specific use case for Aspect is preventing smart contract hacks through the execution of Aspects at specific join points of the transaction. Aspects monitor and track the call stack, setting risk control rules that can detect duplicate calls, indicative of a potential reentrancy attack. If an attack is detected, aspects can roll back the malicious transaction, effectively halting the attack and preventing any fund loss. 

This is unlikely to be implemented in a native smart contract, as Solidity cannot access the complete transaction context, including state changes and the call stack. Even if data were provided for such detection, the associated gas costs would make it infeasible. 

The use of Aspects for deploying security strategies like this significantly elevates the blockchain’s security standards. As blockchain technology becomes more widely adopted and becomes a platform for financial transactions at scale, we also anticipate that Aspects can play a role in developing enterprise-level risk control logic that is on-chain. With current solutions focused on off-chain risk management tools, it comes with inherent risks such as relying on external entities, such as oracles or third-party services, introducing trust dependencies. By enabling a more robust, on-chain approach to security and risk management, Aspects pave the way for large institutions to consider blockchain technology as a viable component of their technology infrastructure, thereby broadening the adoption and utility of blockchain technology in more mainstream and critical applications.

Fully On-chain Gaming

Artela’s technical design choices are suited to support the development and hosting of fully on-chain games on its blockchain. Fully on-chain games can benefit from the flexibility of Aspects and the performant nature of the Artela blockchain. This can lead to innovative game design that utilizes the inherent interoperable and immutable characteristics of the blockchain. 

An interesting use case of Aspects is building a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game that has a persistent world environment. Drawing inspiration from traditional MMOs like Eve Online, which amassed 50 million players, demonstrated the demand for player-driven narratives and economies in a sandbox environment. Fully on-chain games could take this concept further by permanently embedding every player’s actions and their consequences directly onto the blockchain.  

However, given the customizability and transaction processing constraints inherent in the EVM, many blockchain gaming studios adopt approaches that either keep their game logic entirely off-chain while incorporating on-chain components like NFTs or tokens or adopt a hybrid on-chain/off-chain model. To optimize the development of a fully on-chain game, two key factors are needed: (1) capabilities to include advanced functionality into the game logic, and (2) ensuring low latency to deliver a seamless user experience. 

Returning to the example of persistent worlds, Aspects can automate game state changes triggered by a player’s actions. Let’s take an online multiplayer game where a player’s actions trigger changes in the game map or environment. This requires the game state to be automatically refreshed at predefined intervals. The challenge is that to achieve this, computational demand can become impractical. Artela’s utilization of the WASM virtual machine effectively overcomes computing constraints inherent in the EVM. By delegating specific logic and state updates to WASM, the EVM can focus on simpler functionalities like the transfer of NFTs and tokens. This efficiency allows persistent on-chain worlds to autonomously execute batch calculations and updates without compromising gameplay or transaction speed. As a result of the performant nature of WASM’s execution environment, this opens up the possibility of more genres of fully on-chain games that require low latency.

Artificial Intelligence

AI and blockchain technologies hold promising synergies, particularly in enhancing data security and transparency. Zero-knowledge machine learning (zkML) applies zero-knowledge proofs to machine learning, enabling the verification of computations or predictions without exposing underlying data or model details. As Vitalik Buterin highlights, “Cryptographic gadgets, especially general-purpose ones like ZK-SNARKs and MPC, have a high overhead”. Modulus Labs further illustrates this challenge, indicating that zkML processes are over a thousand times more resource-intensive than direct computations while the average proof generation time using RISC Zero is 173 seconds. Similar to Risc Zero, Artela could utilize WASM to increase the execution speeds for complex ML algorithms and manage large datasets. Despite these advancements, it’s acknowledged that, even with WASM’s optimizations, the average proof generation time remains substantial, and the associated costs continue to challenge the feasibility of deploying zkML as a competitive solution.

However, Artela introduces an innovative framework termed “Heterogeneous Aspects” to address these limitations. The Heterogeneous Aspect leverages the diversity of computing resources and network access to potentially streamline the execution of cryptographic operations, such as those involved in zkML. By enabling more efficient distribution and processing of these computationally demanding tasks, Heterogeneous Aspects could significantly reduce the overhead associated with zero-knowledge proofs and MPC.

Although the Heterogeneous Aspect is a nascent concept, its potential to improve the efficiency of zkML computations and lower barriers to deployment suggests a promising avenue for the integration of AI models on blockchain platforms, thereby enhancing the accessibility and viability of these technologies for a wider range of use cases.


In summary, Artela provides developers with a platform conducive to rapid innovation and adaptability in blockchain development. Its incorporation of native extensions and Aspect programming enables it to overcome EVM constraints, facilitating a wide range of practical applications. The performance and extensibility offered by Aspects executed through WASM present a competitive solution comparable to app-chains, while still allowing access to EVM-based applications and toolsets. Moreover, the composability of Aspects streamlines dApp development by granting developers access to a library of pre-existing functionalities and the ability to create new features at the base-layer level, mimicking the functionality of third-party service providers within a single application. Given these practical advantages, we anticipate significant growth in Artela’s developer ecosystem. 

Artela has raised over $6 million in seed round funding, led by Shima Capital, with participation from Aves Lair, A&T Capital, Big Brain Holdings, SevenX Ventures, Dispersion Capital, Amino Capital, and others.

Special thanks to the Artela team for their invaluable insights and contributions to the article. To learn more about Artela, click here.

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